Balls rejects Sats row intervention

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Almost a quarter of the English Sats taken by 14-year-olds have still not been marked - a fortnight after the results were due to be published, MPs were told today.

The Schools Secretary Ed Balls said the firm behind the marking fiasco had now released the results of 98 per cent of the exams sat by 11-year-olds and 88 per cent of those taken by 14-year-olds.

But he ruled out intervening in the row because the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and ETS Europe were involved in "sensitive" negotiations about the delays.

Just 76.9 per cent of the English tests taken by the 14-year-olds have been graded, despite a July 8 deadline. Some 94.1 per cent of maths scripts and 93.4 per cent of science exams had been marked.

The QCA is in discussions with ETS Europe about the "unacceptable delays," Mr Ball told MPs in a written update.

"Those discussions are highly sensitive - legally and financially - and ... it is very important that the QCA should be allowed to conclude them in a timely and orderly fashion in order to safeguard the interests of pupils, schools and taxpayers.

"Ministerial intervention, at this stage, would be totally inappropriate and would jeopardise the public interest."

Tory leader David Cameron yesterday demanded that the Government ditch ETS.

He also insisted ETS should forfeit any pay-off due to the marking delays, which have left hundreds of thousands of pupils across England in the dark over their results.

Liberal Democrat spokesman David Laws said: "This latest information shows that the marking of the Key Stage tests remains a shambles.

"Almost a quarter of Key Stage 3 English tests have yet to be marked and released to schools.

"This means that over 130,000 children are still waiting for results two weeks after these were due.

"The marking of the tests has been such a mess that there will now be real concerns about the reliability of the results - with schools facing potentially huge bills if they request re-marking.

"Ministers must consider the case for waiving re-marking costs this year and they must ensure that not a penny of public money is paid to ETS until the results of the independent report have been carefully considered.

"Ed Balls should scrap the Key Stage 3 tests for next year and re-invest the money saved where it is needed most - in early intervention to tackle poor maths and English skills."